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Thursday, November 11, 2010

DOHA TO LONDON: MY MOST WONDERFUL AIRPORT DEPARTURE EVER

Traveling the world, you sometimes approach an airport departure with trepidation.  Of course, there was that Delhi to Barcelona flight.  Most recently, my Nairobi to Doha Qatar Airways check-in was a nightmare.

Last night at midnight I submitted my article on Qatar to the Huffington Post.  Normally, they take at least 24 hours to publish it.  When I awoke at 3:30AM, it was already posted.  That worried me because you never know about a country like Qatar, even though the thrust was very complimentary.

I thus was stressed out as I arrived at the departure area of Qatar Airways at 5:20 this morning.  For one, this was awfully early for a 7:45 flight, and I most probably would have to wait a while.  Second, I was anticipating paying a thousand dollars for my luggage being overweight.

Well, there is a business class drop-off, and, almost exactly like in a hotel, there are bellmen to take your baggage to the counter.  You sit down at a desk for check-in.  My suitcases weighed in 19.5 KG over.  As a 15 KG penalty on a 5 hour flight from Nairobi to Doha cost me $353, I was expecting $1000 for 19.5KG on a 12 hour upcoming itinerary.

The lady was most pleasant, gave me my boarding pass and told me how to get to their lounge.  I was waiting for the however….  But it never came.  I then got so bold as to show her the slip for the liquor they had confiscated when I arrived.  She typed something into her computer, and told me the package would be delivered to me at the plane.  Amazing!

Their business class lounge is the largest I’ve ever seen anywhere.  There are two buffet restaurants, plus a bakery with service.  The coffee bar has attendants to make whatever fancy drinks you want.  They serve Laurent Perrier 2000 champagne.  Mind you, we are still in Qatar, and it is not yet 6 AM.  There is a large glassed-in smoking area with no smoke because the venting must be good.  Shower facilities.  Everything looks new and sparkling.  And this whole airport will be replaced with a more luxurious one next year.

I then walked to the gate and when they placed my ticket into the machine, there were bells and a red light.  I thought, oh no, someone from the government already read my HuffPo and wanted to discuss this with me.  But, no, what it was was a reminder for them to return my three liquor bottles.

The Qatar Airways flight in business class was superb.  Excellent wines, really good food and terrific service.  The entertainment system was the best I've ever experienced, with 200 movies and 500 CDs from which to create your own jukebox.  The sound was like home theater and the screen very large.

In comparison, the British Air business class from Heathrow to Oslo featured seats that were the same as coach (in fact, you could make three rows, for the Qatar seats could go horizontal), no entertainment, no champagne, junk food and service like at a fast food restaurant.  But I did make it to Oslo16 hours after leaving my hotel in Doha.  The taxi ride to the Grand Hotel was about $130.  Ouch!  Everything in Norway is expensive.  But everything works, it is safe here and people are honest. 

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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 74 to 11,283, with the Orient going up and rest of the world down.  Gold increased $6/toz to $1407 and petroleum is just under $88/barrel.

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There are no ocean storms.  I guess the hurricane season is as good as over.  Hawaii certainly was spared this year. 

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